Teensy Little Toesies

If someone had asked me to create a list of adjectives to describe myself, “outdoorsy” would fall just below “gourmet.” I was a New York City girl who ordered toast to go. When I say I live in the country to my neighbors here, they laugh. They laugh because we are neighbors, which means this can’t really be the country.

Once, the only walking I liked to do was when there was something interesting to see, like smooth mannequins wearing dresses I could not afford to buy, and dapper men with slicked-back hair, rushing to a meeting on global something. But with a recent ear infection keeping me out of the pool (swimming being my activity of choice), I was desperate for exercise.

“The weather’s been spring since December. Take a walk along the canal,” one of my friends suggested. I work from home, which makes the commute rather quick, unless I see a dust bunny and decide to vacuum first. The point is I have flexibility in my schedule. And the first day I committed to, I checked weather.com every hour, hoping to see the gray cloud-and-raindrop icon. No such luck.

Because I have not stepped into the modern era and my CD Walkman was on the permanent disabled list, I couldn’t listen to music or a book. I don’t remember what I thought about that day. However, I clearly remember swinging my arms for optimum aerobic benefit. I did the three miles to and from the Ranger Station – or whatever those canal authority people are called – in about an hour. And it was at there, at that mid-walk rest stop, as I took a few moments to look at the pictorial history display of the canal, that I gasped in horror at my homophonic error.

I thought this route was called the “toepath” because your teensy little toesies make their way back and forth. Embarrassed even in my solitude, I read about the longtime job of mules towing barges up and down the 60-mile span of the canal between Bristol and Easton. I also learned from the captions that a mule is the baby of a donkey daddy and horse mommy. I think the horse got the raw end of that deal. Anyway, on this cloudless spring day, the path was filled with bicyclists and joggers and other nature enthusiasts – a group I was about to join.

Because it was on my way back when a flock – no, that’s wrong – a gaggle of geese swooped in for a landing only feet in front of me that I became enthused. I felt like the momma bringing up the rear as they craned their tar-black necks, squawking and waddling along the wire fence that separated the path from quite a nice piece of personal property to the right. While the rest of the geese squirmed under the lowest wire and bounded toward an in-ground pool the size of Lake Erie, there was one enormous honkin’ goose that wouldn’t – couldn’t – duck, and continued strutting nervously ahead of me, twisting every few seconds to reassess my proximity.

I couldn’t take it another moment. “What’s wrong with you?” I said in what I thought was a nonthreatening tone. “You’re a bird. Fly.” With a whoosh, he spread his brown wings, and airily hopped over the fence.

I’d made my first communion with nature.

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